I visited my parent’s graves in Caesarea, Israel, with my husband Allen and my brother Glenn this past Tuesday, July 8th. I had not been to their graves since my last trip 4 years earlier. We had come to Israel this time for Glenn’s daughter Ronit’s wedding which would happen the next day.
My parent’s graves are next to one another underneath a plush, medium sized tree filled with bright yellow flowers. The tree not only dropped many yellow flowers in varying shades of yellow and states of decay over the graves, but also leaked a dark amber-brown sap onto the stones. Glenn had brought along some oven cleanser to remove what he could of the stains.
Silently I prayed. Not just the Jewish prayer which I stumbled to follow in Glenn’s recital, I prayed in the ways I have learned as a prayer chaplain, touching into the heart space wherein the inner expression of God is one with all.
First I thought of the tree, especially the wound from which the sap leaked. Recognizing the tree as another expression of the Divine I saw it as whole, without the wound, the healthy expression of the Divine that we all inherently are. Doing so, I also thought of the tree as a symbol of life in The Holy Land, both vibrant and at the same time, wounded. Rockets and the returning bombs had been damaging and destroying material things and lives all week.
Then I prayed again, seeking my departed parents, and my maternal grandmother whose grave lay opposite them. I had been thinking about them during the flight to Israel. Having no idea what if anything I would feel or sense, I went into that sacred heart space and thought again of them. Then I felt something, a distant connection, a sense of deep peace as if any concerns during life were long gone, and a warm approval of me. It was brief, felt more than heard, and I received it with gratitude.
Later thinking about it, I remembered my prior visit four years earlier, when I thought, “this is nothing. Just the physical remains of those long gone.” Yet looking back, there was a presence, one I only barely perceived at the time, so did not recognize. I have long felt at peace with my parents’ deaths, although with some sadness regarding my mother. The last time I had seen her, shortly before her death, she was not at peace unlike my father. The deep sense of peace I felt in the cemetery eased this for me.
‘Was this real or just my imagination?’ I questioned. But thinking this question creates a false dichotomy. Imagination is often the first step in discovery. There was/ is a feeling of symmetry, of balance in my experience that felt right. It would not have been possible without imagination allowing me to be open to more than the material world. It left me with a touch of awe remembering that beautiful tree, visualizing its dark tears stopping, and seeing it (and not only it) as whole again.
One part or type of prayer involves going within to the silence where I am more fully open and present to what is here and now. For me this is basic meditation. Another form of prayer is affirmation, where we see and affirm ourselves or whomever we are praying for in their innate wholeness despite whatever apparent harm or limitation I/ they may be experiencing. It is all too easy in this life not only to perceive limitation, threat and harm, but to expect it. I have found a great liberation in shifting from living based on fear or expectation of harm to living based on expectations of good. Painful things still happen, but they do not so easily darken my life, or my spirit. Besides, it has been my experience that over the long haul, the universe tends to conform to our expectations whether they be positive or negative.
So for now, particularly whenever things seem to be going wrong, I consciously choose to affirm the wholeness, health and love within myself and others.